A PASSER-BY is being hailed a hero for rescuing a vicar and his wife from a blaze which destroyed the roof of his rectory.

Kenny Westwood repeatedly banged on the door of the burning house - opposite St Paul’s Church, on Bishopton Road, Stockton - after seeing torchlight inside.

The father-of-two continued knocking until the Rev Derek Rosamond and his wife Lynne finally opened the front door - to be confronted by the news their home was on fire.

The property suffered collapsed ceilings and water damage after three fire crews, two from Stockton and one from Thornaby, together with a hydraulic platform, tackled the blaze from 6.30pm until 10.15pm last night (Tuesday, January 21).

Mr Westwood's sister Donna Hatton, 28, said he had been visiting their mother on nearby Kirkdale Close and was heading back to his Thornaby home when he spotted smoke billowing from the rectory roof.

The 31-year-old builder quickly returned to his mother’s house to call the fire brigade then went to the rectory to see if anyone was inside.

It was in darkness and the vicar and his wife - believing they had suffered a straightforward power cut - were using a torch to find their way around inside.

Mr Westwood continued knocking after spotting the torchlight and was about to break the door down when the couple opened it and he told them; “Your house is on fire”.

"The lady wanted to go back into the house to get things but Kenny wouldn’t let her, we’re really proud of him. He would help out anyone in a bad situation.”

Bob Bailey, 87, who lives opposite the rectory said at first he thought someone was burning garden rubbish until he went outside and saw the sirens and smoke billowing over his bungalow.

“It was a full scale fire with three fire engines and they had floodlights,” he said.

Liam Screaton, 18, from Kirkdale Close, said: “It was shocking to see how fast the fire spread and how quickly the roof went up.”

The Rev Rosamond who has been priest of St Paul’s since 2004 will now move into temporary accommodation nearby said a spokesman for the Diocese of Durham.

“This was a tragic accident but thankfully a passerby had the peace of mind to knock on the door when he saw smoke to check if there was anybody inside,” he added.

Cleveland Fire Brigade confirmed that the fire was not being treated as suspicious and an investigation into the cause is underway.